A property developer who neglected its legal responsibilities to manage contaminated waste from a development site faces nearly a quarter of a million dollars in fines and costs.
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has convicted development company Vinter Avenue Pty Ltd (Vinter) of two offences under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and ordered it pay fines totalling $220,000 plus Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s (EPA’s) costs.
This is the latest case in a series of prosecutions brought about by EPA’s Illegal Waste Dumping Strikeforce involving a proposed residential development site in Vinter Avenue, Croydon.
Vinter bought a former industrial site in Vinter Avenue, Croydon to develop 23 residential properties. Historical soil assessments, known to Vinter, plus a soil assessment commissioned by Vinter just two months prior to the offending, clearly stated the site was full of hazardous Category A lead-contaminated waste. Category A waste is the highest hazard category of industrial waste in Victoria: it must be treated before it can be deposited at any landfill in Victoria.
Despite these reports, Vinter allowed its contractor to transport the waste to a landfill as “solid inert waste”. It agreed to share the money saved by not treating the waste as Category A waste with its contractor. It relied upon a new soil assessment, commissioned by its contractor, prepared by Watson Environmental Assessments Pty Ltd, which "misstated" the true nature of the waste.
Watson Environmental Assessments was previously fined $125,000 by the Magistrates’ Court in December 2017 for its role in these activities. Magistrate Gattuso described the behaviour of the environmental assessor as a “significant breach of trust”.
“EPA has said in the past it will chase all those involved in the pollution chain, especially those who stand to profit from it,” said EPA CEO Nial Finegan.
“In this case, Vinter Avenue Pty Ltd chose to ignore their own environmental assessment report that clearly stated there was Category A prescribed industrial waste on their site,
“At stake was the savings in in cleanup costs and a significant increase in the value of the land once the waste was removed.
“EPA will not allow a company to offload its responsibility behind a ‘misstated’ environmental assessment to sidestep its legal obligations.”
Vinter Avenue Pty Ltd has appealed the decision to the County Court.